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Retail Meat Dealers' Shops (Sunday Closing)

Volume 244: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1930

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I beg to move,

"That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provido for the compulsory closing of retail meat dealers' shops on Sundays."
I am following the excellent example set by the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow (Mr. Stewart) last session when he introduced a Bill for the compulsory closing of barbers' and hairdressers' shops on Sundays. That Bill met with approval on all sides of the House, and the hon. Member was fortunate enough to get a Second Reading, also Committee stage and, finally, to get the Bill on the Statute Book, and I am hoping that I shall have the same good fortune with this Bill. It refers to the sale of butchers' meat by retail. The practice of this kind of food distribution on Sunday has grown very rapidly since the War, and complaints have been received from many parts of the country, particularly from London, Newcastle, Bristol, Oldham, Gateshead and many other towns. This has given some concern to those who are engaged in this form of food distribution, and the National Federation of Meat Traders' Association have taken action from time to time. It has been found impossible to secure a voluntary system of closing. This Federation have unanimously adopted at conferences in 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929, and again this year, resolutions asking Parliament to give powers to close these shops on Sundays.

The Journeyman Butchers' Federation are equally anxious that something should be done, and they are cooperating with the National Federation of Meat Traders in order to bring about a better state of affairs in the industry. They have set up a joint committee, and a letter has no doubt been sent to every hon. Member, signed by Mr. Blois, secretary of the employers' side of the Federation, and by Mr. Misseldine, the organising secretary of the Journeyman Butchers' Federation, asking Parliament to confer this power. They say that apart altogether from the religious question any move towards increasing the hours of labour through Sunday trading is strongly to he deprecated; and I am asking the House to take this view into consideration. I know that there are a number of people who regard Sunday trading in any form as a sin. I am not going to express my own opinion on that point, but speaking as a retail trader myself, and from the point of view of the man who has to work in the shops whether he is master or workman, I say that it is unfair that he should have to work on Sundays.

Those who have to open their shops on Sundays have expressed themselves in favour of the Bill. They say that someone comes into their neighbourhood and opens on Sundays. Other butchers do not want to open, but are compelled to do so because the man who does takes away many of their customers. If there was compulsory power to close these shops all would have to conform and there would be no difficulty. The journeymen realise that hours of labour will be considerably increased if this practice grows. At the present moment journeymen who are employed in these shops have a just cause of complaint. They tell me that they are not concerned about getting overtime and extra wages but that they want their Sunday's rest, and I think they have a perfect right to ask Parliament to give them this day of rest. The Bill is in the same simple form as the Bill drafted by the hon. Member for St. Rollox. Provision is made for exemption in the case of Jewish traders dealing in kosher meat who close on the Jewish Sabbath. We are negotiating with the Jewish Board on this matter and we shall insert in the Bill a Clause which will be acceptable to them. The Bill is backed by hon. Members on all sides of the House. It is absolutely non-contentious, and I hope the House will give me permission to introduce it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Womersley, Mr. Blindell, Mr. Hannon., Mr. Rhys Davies, Mr. Graham White, Sir Robert Newman, Sir Gerald Hurst, Dr. Vernon Davies, Mr. Haycock, and Mr. Hoffman.